We weren’t so far away with our tip for the win in Cordoba, Michael Matthews the GreenEDGE Aussie was third and held on to his race lead; but we should slap out own wrists for not mentioning Germany’s Giant, John Degenkolb – the man to watch when gravity is involved and rains on the ‘pure’ fast men’s parade.
Albeit some rain would have been very welcome as the furnace-like weather continues to fry the peloton.
We may not have been too far away with Matthews but we were well out with Peter Sagan (Cannondale & Slovakia) – 13:44 was his deficit at the line in the same gruppo as Andrea Guardini (Astana & Italy).
Yauheni Hutarovich (AG2R & Belarus), Roberto Ferrari (Lampre & Italy) and Gerald Ciolek (MTN & Germany) all fared even worse with the clock stopping at 16:55 – two other interesting names in that group were Messrs. Thibaut Pinot (F des J & France) – who may have made the podium in le Tour but is ‘just another rider’ here and the enigma that is Carlos Betancur (AG2R & Columbia).
Meanwhile, as if to emphasis his form, Bouhanni was much closer to the winner, at 08:31 with Tom Boonen (QuickStep & Belgium) and Philip Deignan (Sky & Ireland).
Behind Matthews as temporary resident in the red jersey the cream is already rising with pre-race favourite Nairo Quintana (Movistar & Columbia) in second spot thanks to that stunning Movistar Stage One TTT victory, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar & Spain) is third, Rigoberto Uran (QuickStep and Columbia) is fourth – albeit his Vuelta track record isn’t great – Alberto Contador (Tinkoff & Spain) is ninth and Chris Froome (Sky & GB) is 15th despite Sky’s mediocre TTT.
Cadel Evans is 13th but we foresee the inevitable ‘jour sans’ for the venerable Aussie and don’t see him as a podium contender.
Joauquin Rodriguez (Katusha & Spain) is 18th and Fabio Aru (Astana & Italy) is 22nd – another two who suffer as a result of dull TTT’s but with a minute covering the first 30-odd riders there’s a long way to go to the end of the ‘Way of Saint James’ – the long pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella and that final TT.
Stage Five tomorrow (Wednesday) to beautiful Ronda, today could go either way, a break could stick or it could come together under the impetus of Matthews’ and Degenkolb’s teammates, and F des J and the GC teams chasing.
But maybe the GC teams won’t work too hard with the first summit finish coming on Thursday’s Stage Six and giving the top 20 ‘bag of crisps’ a real good shake?
The winner? Bouhanni.